China has come down heavily on its “Iron Brother” Pakistan over the security of the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects and its citizens working in Pakistan. The Tuesday suicide bombing of a van carrying Chinese teachers in Karachi, which left three Chinese nationals dead follows a string of attacks targeting Chinese employees working on CPEC projects in the restive but resource rich Balochistan Province.
China has been concerned about attacks which indicate that the militants’ strategy was evolving as the attackers appeared ready to adopt “fidayeen” tactics. However, with the deployment of a woman suicide bomber, the BLA attack on the university premises has added an altogether new dimension.
Also read: Baloch target Chinese again—first female suicide bomber kills three Chinese nationals in Karachi
Already, the state-run Chinese media has been critical and wary of the security provided by the Pakistani authorities. But now a new realisation is dawning that pure reliance on Pak for security may not be enough.
“We must point out that Pakistan has strengthened the protection of Chinese nationals in recent years but without addressing the root causes of the problem, there will always be loopholes,” says the Global times, a Chinese affiliated media.
The daily underlines that while CPEC project sites are heavily fortified, its citizens are quite vulnerable.
"Hard targets" like projects or construction sites that are tightly protected are thought to be difficult to attack. For that reason, the terrorists sought "soft targets" such as schoolteachers. The China-Pakistan anti-terrorism cooperation needs to be further strengthened and resolutely strike related terrorist organization. We shouldn't allow terrorists' evil acts,” says The Global Times adding that Pakistani authorities must devise a full proof and aggressive strategy to deal with those militants who are a major threat to Chinese interests in the country.
“We strongly demand that the Pakistani side make more efforts to protect the safety of Chinese institutions, projects and personnel in Pakistan, and make those organizations understand that those who try to hurt the Chinese will only bring destruction on themselves.”
Karachi suicide blast that killed 3 Chinese is only the trailer, says Baloch Liberation Army, which has formed a special unit to attack only Chinese nationals in Pakistan. BLA tells China to dissolve CPEC immediately and leave Balochistan. pic.twitter.com/NuqkZcUwCN
— Rakesh Krishnan Simha (@ByRakeshSimha) April 26, 2022
Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, yet again warned its citizens “to increase security awareness, strengthen internal precautions, reduce trips outside as much as possible, and avoid crowded public spaces”.
China is upgrading energy links and infrastructure as part of a $54bn CPEC programme with both nations wary of security threats to the projects.
Last year, in April 2021, a suicide bomb attack at a luxury hotel hosting the Chinese ambassador in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, killed four and wounded dozens. The ambassador was unhurt.
In July last year, a bus carrying engineers to a construction site near a dam in north western Pakistan was hit by a bomb, killing 13 people including 9 Chinese engineers.
The attack frayed relations between Islamabad and Beijing, and Pakistan later paid millions in compensation to the families of the Chinese workers killed.
Beijing is becoming increasingly frustrated that Pakistan is failing to curb terrorism. It must be noted that although the Baloch’s are struggling for a national independence movement, many of the terrorists responsible for attacks, particularly among the Pashtun, are groups with deep links and ties with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and have a Salafi ideology.
“The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack. The BLA will definitely be more resolutely annihilated. I support Chinese military to launch direct air strikes against this terrorist organization's camp after getting approval of the Pakistani government,” wrote Hu Xijin, the former editor of Global Times.
Also read: Baloch rebels gun down 10 Pakistani army soldiers including a Major in stepped up guerrilla warfare